CHURCH WEBSITE STRATEGY

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1

{c} 2011

by Kendall Laughlin Jr. Personal & Non
-
Commercial Use Permitted.

CHURCH WEBSITE STRATEGY

Kendall Laughlin, 2011

Author’s Note:

Over the past 9 years it’s

been a

sometimes

hobby and

occasionally

full
-
time job to design, market, and develop
online media.

Initially, this work began with the creation and selling of websites

during the ‘dot com boom’ to
various corporate real estate companies. In 2008 I entered into full
-
time ministry and planted All Peoples Church
in San Diego, CA with a team of friends.

During the planting of All Peoples Church I would seek God weekly for d
ivine wisdom related to online
marketing and how to best promote our church on the web. His wisdom came in the form of dreams, ideas, and
practical thoughts.

This “e
-
book” is my attempt to share this information with my friends in ministry around the count
ry.

For More Information:

Many of the “links” in this e
-
book can be found directly on my personal website,
kendallandshelly.wordpress.com. Visit the “Church Web Strategy Section” for more information.


Thank You:

Thank you to the staff and community of All

Peoples Church for giving me the grace to figure out the details of a
a web strategy “on the fly.”

Thank you to my wife, Shelly, for editing this document with extreme precision!



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{c} 2011

by Kendall Laughlin Jr. Personal & Non
-
Commercial Use Permitted.

Table of Contents
: Church Website Strategy



The Importance of Your Church W
ebsite






3




Church Website
Roles









4




Church Website Stages









5

o

The start
-
up phase








6

o

The launch phase








8

o

The local church phase








10

o

The resource center phase







12




Web Design Strategy For Churches







13

o

Color

o

Typogr
aphy

o

Layout

o

Photography

o

Menu / Navigation

o

Newspaper Thinking

o

Directions and Times

o

Contact Form

o

Consider Multiple Audiences

o

Test the Design

o

Content Management

o

Domain Name / Hosting




Social Media Strategy for Churches







20

o

Understanding Social Media

o

Step
s to a Social Media Campaign

o

Using Facebook Effectively

o

Using Twitter Effectively




Search Engine
Optimization

Strategy for Churches





23

o

For the Pastor

o

For the Web Administrator




Appendix: Favorite US Church Websites






30




Appendix: Working with a Web Designer






31

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{c} 2011

by Kendall Laughlin Jr. Personal & Non
-
Commercial Use Permitted.



The Importance of the Church Website

Consider the following statistics as you think about the importance of your church
website:



85% of first
-
time church guests visit a church's websit
e prior to their initial visit
1



16% of visitors say the first pl
ace they heard

about church was the website.
2



77% of people visiting a church less than three months said the church website was 'import
ant'

in their decision to stay.
2



43% of church members acces
s a sermon online once a month
2



64% of the nation's

internet users use the web for s
piritual or religious purposes
3

In your own day
-
to
-
day experience, where do you turn to answer a question, to read the news, to discover a
new product? The Internet plays a central role in our lives as we gather information

in a global society.

Our experience tells us, and statistics confirm, that the church website is the new 'front
-
door' for a church.
Therefore, your site must be up
-
to
-
date, compelling, and welcoming.

In my own experience regarding cold
-
contact and relatio
nal evangelism, I have had noticed an interesting trend:
even when I am in relationship with a potential church
-
goer, that person will typically view the website before
attending with me.

In these cases, our church website actually has had the power to in
crease or decrease the interest of a potential
visitor to our church.






1

http://www.christianitytoday.com/yc/2007/novdec/4.30.html

2

http://www.christianitytoday.com/yc/2009/novdec/websitewisdom.html

3

http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2004/Faith
-
Online.aspx

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{c} 2011

by Kendall Laughlin Jr. Personal & Non
-
Commercial Use Permitted.

Church Website Roles

Many church planting teams will not have a web designer on staff. As a result, I have created the attached ‘role
sheet’ in order to give vision for the CP leader,
web designer, and staff member responsible for maintaining the
church website.

Churches that have a CP leader that is very technically proficient or a web designer on staff may develop
different roles.

I.

FOR THE CHURCH PLANT LEADER

Main r
oles

in the devel
opment of the website
:



Pray and ask God for the right 'domain name'



Oversee the writing of text for the site

(and provide edited content)



Make sure the look and feel of the site portrays the personality of your community




(Typically the best thing to do i
s to find OTHER church websites that you can show

to the designer so he
or she c
an build of an existing 'feel'.



Oversee the photos and video on the site



Make sure someone on your team knows how to update the content of the site



Have the relevant user names
/passwords/ logins on file in case of emergency

I
I
.

FOR THE
WEB DESIGNER

Main

r
oles

in the development of the website
:



Purchase Domain Name



Set up a hosting account



Choose a content management system (don’t just

build a static or a flash site)
4



Customize
CMS template for the church



Teach a team member how to update the CMS template

I
II
.

FOR THE
TEAM MEMBER RESPONSIBLE FOR THE SITE

Main r
oles

in the development of the website
:



Maintain all logins pertaining to hosting and domain names



Know how to update

co
ntent, add photos, add video,

and create posts using the CMS system



Manage church SEO presence using social media and SEO Strategy (see SEO Strategy document)



Know how to pay for additional hosting, domains, etc

and have primary email for all accounts




4

Refer to ‘Web Design Strategy For Churches’ chapter for more information

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{c} 2011

by Kendall Laughlin Jr. Personal & Non
-
Commercial Use Permitted.

Chur
ch Website Stages

Like every aspect of your church, your online ministry will change according to the size and season of your
church plant. Below is a brief description of the goals, strategic questions, and specifics for your church website
in each season
.

The Stages of a Church Website

The table below will provide the reader with a brief overview of the stages of a church website at different
growth points in the life of a local church.

Stage

Size

Sundays

Site Goal

Necessary Tools

House Church/
Start
-
up

Zero to 50

Prior to l
aunch

Legitimacy



URL



Bios



Vision d
escription

Launch

50 to 80

During season
of l
aunching
Sunday Service

Create a buzz about
Sunday Service



Online m
ap location in
Google, Mapquest, Bing



Online photo sharing of
Sunday pictures



Welcome vi
deo for
visitors



Social m
edia pages on
Facebook, Twitter, Etc

Local Church

80 to 100
plus?

A consistent
public worship
gathering

Pastoring &
Evangelism



Podcast



Ability to email pastoral
staff



SEO strategy for online
search engines



Frequently updated
photo
s



Online Giving



Relevant information for
local church events

Resource
Center

Established in
the local and
national
community

A professional
and relevant
Spirit
-
filled
celebration

Equipping



Pastoral interaction via
blogs and social media



Streaming audio &
video
in multiple formats



E
-
Books or an online
store for written material



Streaming services or
conferences live online

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{c} 2011

by Kendall Laughlin Jr. Personal & Non
-
Commercial Use Permitted.

HOUSE CHURCH/ START
-
UP PHASE

( 0 to 50 people,
prior to Sunday l
aunch):

SITE
GOAL:
LEGITIMACY

In the start
-
up page of your church, your

web page is basically a way to be legitimate. You use it to cast vision,
add credibility, and show how you relate to a larger network.

STRATEGIC QUESTIONS

FOR
THE START
-
UP CHURCH:




What kind of church

is this now...and will it be?


o

A clear vision statemen
t for your church is necessary. A
n additional

compelling vision video is
better.

o

This should be the first thing that comes up on your website.

o

Don't promise more than you are. Every little church has big dreams. Describe the long
-
term
vision but also make
sure to be clear about your current season of church life (meeting in a
home, etc).

o

Remember to use plenty of Scripture as you articulate your vision (see the next question).





Are you guys normal...is this a r
eal Christian church or a cult?


o

A 'beliefs' p
age or section is important in every stage of your CP, but most important during this
stage.

o

Also, a link and explanation for the Antioch Network (or other church networks you are a part) is
important in this stage.

o

We learned this the hard way at our chur
ch: make sure every piece of language on your website
is thought through and analyzed for both non
-
believers and churched people. Things will be
analyz
ed to
the extreme
!




“Why did you move here?”

o

Introduction of the primary pastor's family and your CP team

with bios and pictures, marketing
any relevant background or biographical information.

o

Resist the temptation to provide a bio for every team member, only those in public preaching &
worship ministry need this kind of profile (these kind of descriptions c
an be begin to fall into the
'too much information' category). Every person, however
, needs a clear job title to explain their
role.

o

An 'About Us' page will provide this kind of background. Include in your background information
details about how God calle
d you to this specific region during this specific time.

NOTES

ON MAINTAINING A SITE IN THIS SEASON:



Avoid the temptation to put up an 'under construction' or 'coming soon' page during this stage. You
have 90 seconds to capture the attention of a website v
isitor and this kind of language is an immediate
buzzkill for a new visitor.


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{c} 2011

by Kendall Laughlin Jr. Personal & Non
-
Commercial Use Permitted.



If you are meeting in a house, do not expect to get visitors from your website. Put your meeting
information on the site to confirm those who you have already invited, but unders
tand that the average
American is not going to show up at a home without a personal relationship.




You
r URL (www.abcchurch.com/org
) is a very important investment. You will not want to change it later
(because you will lose traffic), so buy and hosting a U
RL that you will
feel comfortable with long
-
term.




During this stage, people will be impressed that you actually have a website and therefore you can get

away with lower quality design and less content.

Once you launch a service people expect your church
w
ebsite to be as professional as any oth
er church with a Sunday service.




Search engine marketing does not need to happen during this phase, but make sure that you are
preparing for the next website phase by getting your site listed.




Start early by creatin
g professional church
-
wide emails.
Mailchimp.com

allows you to create traceable
emails with professional graphic design for free. The site manages your email list and facilitates
‘unsubscribes.’ I highly recommend it.



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{c} 2011

by Kendall Laughlin Jr. Personal & Non
-
Commercial Use Permitted.

LAUNCH PHASE

(Preparing and launchi
ng your first service (50 to 80 people)

As you prepare for your big Sunday Launch, your team will be beginning to manage all kinds of new details:
sound, facilities, hospitality, etc. Your church website must change in this stage as well.

SITE

GOAL:
CREATE

A BUZZ

and GET PEOPLE THERE!

You are undertaking a major task as a CP team: crafting and producing a Sunday service. The main goal of yo
ur
website will be to create a b
uzz about the upcoming event.

STRATEGIC QUESTIONS FOR
THE ‘LAUNCH PHASE’ CHURCH:




“What

will a gathering be like?”

o

During this phase, you will want to begin articulating what your gatherings will look like. You will
want to put some kind of information and FAQ.

o

Remember to craft your language about a future gathering with both the churched
and the
unchurched in mind.

o

Any kind of vision you have about worship and corporate gatherings

o

Visitors have 1,000 questions about a new church, but your 'FAQ' section about a gathering
should address some of these topics:



Length of the service



Attire for
the service



Parking


this is HUGE!



Access for disabled and elderly



Make sure your parking lot is clearly
labeled and ready for visitors!



Access for children



Style of preaching and worship



Whether or not you will ask people for money



Whether or not everyon
e who is there will be Christian (are seekers welcome?)



Hospitality issues and how you will make a visitor feel comfortable (keep your
promises!)

o

Pictures really do say a thousand words. Show the parking, show the entry and show the service.





Wher
e and wh
en will a gathering be?”

o

Recently a friend from Texas visited our church and was able to get to All Peoples from North
San Diego using nothing but our church website. I was praising God, because I knew that it was
clear on our site how to get to our gather
ing.

o

Would a visitor be able to find your Sunday worship service if their only resource was your
website?

o

The location and the time must be very large, and in huge bold letters. Many times I have had
people complain that they could not find the time or lo
cation of our service even when it was
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{c} 2011

by Kendall Laughlin Jr. Personal & Non
-
Commercial Use Permitted.

mentioned on the site.





Will there be people like
me there?”

o

Pictures become huge during this phase of your church website, as people visiting the site are
asking this question.

o

Your site should be tailored to your '
primary target group' for this
initial gathering. For example:
We started our church targeting students and those in poverty. As our horizons expanded, so
did our images on our site.

o

A church photo shoot can be appropriate during this stage

o

Design implies
affinity. As you are designing your site you should model colors and layout after
the types of websites your target group visits.

NOTES ON MAINTAINING A SITE IN THIS SEASON:



Now is the time to start using social media. Enabling visit
ors and members to 'fri
end' you

on Facebook,
view videos & pictures online, and interact together will increase
your 'b
uzz.'




Now is the time to begin search engine marketing. It is a crazy feeling when your first visitor arrives,
knowing no one and having only seen a website. B
egin to pray over and exercise your SEO strategy!




Pictures are everything for your gathering. You can describe things as much as you want in text, but an
authentic picture really communicates more than you ever can. Your site must become photo
-
rich in th
is
season.




People want your photographs to be real, not stock images. A stock images tells a visitor that you know
how to go online and download a photo of what you want your church to be, but not what it actually is.
Hire a professional photographer (or
ask one to volunteer) and take as many pictures as you can during
your first few gatherings.




I have found that it takes three people three different services to capture the same quality footage that
a professional photographer can do during one service.
Most volunteers are not as assertive as a
professional photographer and therefore will not get as many high
-
quality shots of people interacting
with each other or worshiping.




Be aware of how you present yourself. I recently went to another CP's website in

Southern California
and watched their welcome video. Every person on the website was white, under 30 and had thick
Southern drawl. The church, however, is located in a surfer community full of bars, tattoo parlors, and
coffee shops. A visitor's take
-
away.
..this is a church for white, young Southerners who have moved to
California (and a visitor is most likely not of that demographic).




Be wary of creating a 'church mascot.' It can be easy to find one person that can become the 'Face Of
ABC Church' for a se
ason


on Sundays and in your marketing material. There can be unforeseen
consequences to promoting a lay leader to this kind of celebrity status, even in a small community.

If an
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{c} 2011

by Kendall Laughlin Jr. Personal & Non
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individual appears too frequently in your photos, it will begin to look like

he/she is the only person
attending your church.

LOCAL CHURCH PHASE

(Moving from a church plant to an established church with a successful service of 3 to 6 months)

As a church plant moves from the
church plant

phase to the
local church

phase you will wan
t to use your
website to continue to attract new visitors (keeping the 'front door' open) while also providing details and
resources to your members (keeping the 'back door' shut).

SITE

GOALS: EVANGELISM AND PASTORING

Evangelism
:


Your website will begin
to attract visitors that are looking for a church that is more specifically like
yours. For example, as our church progressed from the
launch

to
local church
phase
,

we began to attract visitors
who were searching for this like a 'supernatural church', a 'm
ulticultural church', or a 'church near______'.


Pastoring
:

Your website will also begin to be used as a resource to update your people about events. Church
members will not be getting their primary information off the website during this stage but will
b
egin to check
the website the day of

events fo
r details like directions, etc.

Furthermore, another role your site will play in pastoring your members will be through the dissemination of
relevant resources. During this stage you will develop your podcast a
nd any other free material you want to
begin posting online.

STRATEGIC QUESTIONS FOR THE EMERGING ‘LOCAL CHURCH’:



“What is going on here?”

o

Having clear information on your website about each ministry and each event in your ministry is
a top

priority in thi
s stage. Every formal

ministry event should be posted online with the
following information:



Date



Time



Location



Vision



Whether or not childcare is provided

o

Another crucial element in this stage will be to specify what th
e primary ministries

of your
church
are on your site. A visit
or is now evaluating you as an established church not a start
-
up

and therefore wants to know wha
t kind of ministries you offer.




“How do I get involved here?”

o

Your church strategy from moving a first
-
time visitor to a fiery member
should be evident.





“Who is in charge of this thing?”

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{c} 2011

by Kendall Laughlin Jr. Personal & Non
-
Commercial Use Permitted.

o

Detailing your staff roles,
especially those that are your ministry heads

is very important
because it adds legitimacy to your church and the ministries you offer.

NOTES ON MAINTAINING A SITE IN THIS
SEASON:


Your podcast should be set
-
up
during this phase. Once you set
up a podcast, the timely upload of the content

definitely becomes an expectation from those at your church and f
rom those across the nation. M
ake sure you
have a clear system set up to

record and update your podcast. This can take up to 2
-
3 hours a week in the
beginning.


Our church established online giving during this season and it helped us greatly in our support raising for staff
members as well for our local offering. VANCO is the

company we used.


A 'F
lickr stream' is a great way to continually post recent photos to your site while not having to constantly
code things.


As far as your design is concerned, a color pallet
e

and a semi
-
permanent logo should be decided upon in this
s
eason.


As your church grows you will want to continually update the pictures on your site to reflect your current size.
Your old language, vision commentary, and theology will also begin to take more shape and will need to be
updated to r
eflect your curr
ent stage (For legal reasons, you may not post photos that feature the faces of
minor).



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{c} 2011

by Kendall Laughlin Jr. Personal & Non
-
Commercial Use Permitted.

RESOURCE CENTER PHASE


(Your established church website becomes an online resource fo
r other churches and believers)

A church that has become a resource center when
it begins publishing and creating material intending to train
and educate believers in their church and

others via the
internet.

SITE GOAL:
EQUIPPING



Your website will become an online resource to equip your local church as well as other churches



Your webs
ite must become media intensive with streaming audio, vi
deo, and downloadable

written
materials.



Your website may develop an online store to sell published materials to others
.



This equipping phase may serve an evangelistic purpose by meeting a felt ne
ed i
n the community
around you.

For example, your site could be a community resource with help for the homeless, those
struggling financially, or practical help for families.


STRATEGIC QUESTIONS FOR THE ‘RESOURCE CENTER’:



How can I learn from you?

o

Determinin
g how you will release material as a church during this stage is important. You may
decide to develop a store and charge for material, or you may post al
l your material for free
online (Evangelistic material should always be free).

o

What models will you use

to distribute your information? Will you rely on established
technology like Youtube, iTunes, Vimeo, or Facebook? Will you create your technology and host
them on your site (the ibethel.tv approach)?

o

Your lead pastor or other traveling ministries may deve
lop 'sub
-
sites' in this season if they have
a specific message or resource that is being published or frequently requested.




What can I learn from you?

o

What kind of material will you provide as a resource? How advanced or basic will the material
be? How pa
storally sensitive will this material be? These are questions you will grapple with in
this season.

o

Determining your key messages

as a church may be important

to highlight on the site

in this
s
eason for visitors and those wanting to learn more about your c
hurch.



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{c} 2011

by Kendall Laughlin Jr. Personal & Non
-
Commercial Use Permitted.

Web Design Strategy for Churches

12

PRINCIPLES OF EFFECTIVE WEBSITES:

The ten principles of effective church websites are listed below and expounded upon later in this chapter.

1.

Color

2.

Typography

3.

Layout

4.

Photography

5.

Menu / Navigation

6.

Newspaper Thinki
ng

7.

Directions and Times

8.

Contact Form

9.

Consider Multiple Audiences

10.

Test the Design

11.

Content Management

12.

Domain Name / Hosting

1.

Color

Let’s face it, if you are reading this document you are probably a church leader and not a color theorist. You
are aware, howeve
r, of the importance of color.

At All Peoples Chur
ch, the average visitor spends 2:11

(one minute and 52 seconds) on our church website.
That is certainly not enough time to look at every
picture or read every word.

Because your church has so little time
to attract the attention of a visitor, the use of color can be used to
indirectly communicate various things about your church and website.

In general,
important information

should be in
bold

or in
warm colors

on your site in order to immediately
attract t
he attention of a visitor.

How to find the right colors for your website:

i.

Find a website or company whose color design you love

ii.

Ask yourself, “why do you love these colors?”

iii.

Consider how these colors will impact the ‘target group’ for your church and websi
te

iv.

Emulate

that website’s color pallet
e
!

v.

When in doubt, go to Starbucks.com, twitter.
com, or another
impacting c
ompany
and
consider their design choices.



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-
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2.

Typo
graphy



Typography Principle #1


Most users don’t read, so let’s make reading as easy as we can.

Most
adults read at a 4 to 6
th

grade reading level.



Typography Principle # 2
-

Separate content from headlines



Typography Principles # 3


Hyperlinks should be obvious on the page



Typography Principle # 4


Give text breathing room.



Typography Principle #
5


Avoid hyphens, widows, and orphans



Typography Principle # 6


Avoid passive text

The use of typography effects many aspects of the design of your site including:



Readability (the ability to easily scan over content on the site)



Reference (the use of ce
rtain fonts have subliminal cultural meaning to the reader)



Design (good typography considers whitespace and how that effects the eye of the viewer)



Importance (important information on your site may be highl
ighted with certain types of
ty
pography)


For m
ore information on typography theory visit
alistapart.com

for articles and tips.

New technology for typography has emerged:

Previously, the web designer had access to a small amount of fonts if he or she wanted the website to
be readable for search engines
. Now, however, the use of @font
-
face kits make many new fonts easy to
use online.

For more information about @font
-
face kits visit: fontsquirrel.com

3.

Layout

The best strategy we have used as a church to develop layouts for site designs has been to find we
bsites
we love or our city loves and copy them. Chances are that if you love the website and others love the
website, there is a reason.


Many content management systems prescribe a layout for websites based upon the ‘theme’ that a
designer uses. Consider
the layout of a theme much more seriously than the color or typography
because layout is much more difficult to change.


Many churches would benefit from the use of a ‘magazine layout’ theme as developed by some content
management systems like Wordpress.

T
hese themes make it easy to showcase different types of
content on the front page.


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4.

P
hotography


The Most I
mportant Design Element

Truly, a picture is worth a thousand

words. As a web designer, I have frequently been approached by
organizations wanted to

re
-
design their website. Frequently I advise the
se

organizations to take updated
and
artistic pictures before updating

their sites.

A fresh layout or color scheme cannot replace the
powerful visual example that photography provides.


Your site must be org
anized around powerful images that represent your community. These images
must be the foundation of your site’s design. Pictures of your city, your streets, your church,

your
events, and your worship will draw in a potential visitor like no copy that you c
an write.



Pictures provide legitimacy. They communicate to the viewer, “this is a real event” and “this thing
happens.”


Things to consider when using pictures for your website:



Stock photos are not best. Many times they look
cheesy.



Pictures taken in a
photojournalistic style will look more natural to the viewer



Consider diversity in

gender,

age
,

and ethnicity when posting pictures on your site



The use of an online photo
-
sharing service like FLICKR.COM allows the designer to most pictures
in a central lo
cation and for those pictures to auto
-
update in a multitude of settings online.



For legal reasons, you may not post photos that feature the faces of minors.


5.

Menu / Navigation

Don’t reinvent the wheel when designing your website. Most websites either use a

horizontal or vertical
based menu navigation. These menus they either ‘drop
-
down’ to sub
-
menus or expand with some kind of
animation.


Users are used to these types of menus (horizontal and vertical) and will respond best to a
format with
which they are f
amiliar
.

The menu should be the same on every page.


THE BARE MINIMUM: PAGES EVERY CHURCH WEBSITE MUST INCLUDE



THE HOME PAGE

o

Clear communication of current sermon series

o

Clear communication of current worship service


with directions




THE 'ABOUT US' PAGE

o

Describing Staff (with pictures)

o

Describing Church Vision

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o

Link to theological statement




THE 'MINISTRIES' PAGE

o

Clear communication of current ministries (with pictures)

o

Any additional meetings happening with details

o

Information on how to get involved




THE
'SERVICES' PAGE

o

Description of what a service is like (with pictures)

o

Description of times, details, directions, and dress




THE 'CONTACT US' PAGE

o

A contact form to contact a pastor

o

Office, email, phone, and other information

THE GOLD STANDARD: PAGES EVERY
CHURCH WEBSITE SHOULD INCLUDE



ALL PAGES DESCRIBED ABOVE




THE 'MEDIA' PAGE

o

Podcast


Audio / Video

o

Pictures




THE 'OUR STORY' PAGE

o

How your church
began

o

The greater network to whom your church belongs.

o

Pictures from the early days (to show how you've grown)




THE 'SMALL GROUPS' PAGE

o

Clear description of current small groups and structure (with pictures)

o

How to get involved in a small group




THE 'EVENTS' PAGE

o

Frequently updated with compelling graphics about upcoming events

o

D
irections and relevant details for v
isitors and church members

For more information on navigation menus
visit
smashingmagazine.com

and search
“navigation”





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17

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-
Commercial Use Permitted.

6.

Newspaper Thinking

Q: What matters most when reading a newspaper?

A: Headlines and pictures.


The same design strategy should be emp
loyed when designing your church website.

The “above the
fold” information on the front page is the most important information to your visitors.


7.

Directions and Times:
Make it easy to find you

The un
-
churched must overcome the obstacles of personal fear,
pride, and spiritual warfare to attend
your church. Why make logistics any harder than they need to be?


Directions, times, and maps should all be prominently displayed on
every page

of the site.

They should
be obvious and easy to read. As of January 201
1, the average visitor on the All Peoples Church site
spends 2 minutes and 11 seconds. That is a very short amount of time to make an impression and
communicate details regarding Sunday worship.


Links to Google or Bing maps have become the industry standa
rd for navigation. Utilize these tools.


8.

Contact Form:
Make it easy to contact you

Every church website should have a prominently displayed and easy to use contact form.


Rather than posting the emails of various staff members (which can have the unintend
ed consequences
of phishing and enabling solicitation), a programmed form is easy for any user and intuitive.


9.

Consider multiple audiences

Who will be viewing your church website? In the launch of our first All Peoples Church website we made
the strategic
mistake of assuming that only the ‘unchurched’ would be interested in our site. Boy, were
we wrong! Considering multiple audiences for your site will help you insure that you have the
information that each user is looking for.


Consider the following audi
ences:



Home b
ase (People from your mother church looking for ministry updates)



Ministry prayer and f
inancial supporters

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Those seeking a relationship with God



Secular media



Families of those who are now attending your church (wanting to ‘check you out’)



Pot
ential visitors



New members (
wanting the most current information
)



Other churches and ministries in your city, wanting to learn about the new work



Church staff (wanting to feel like they are a valued and mentioned part of your team)


10.


Test Run the D
esign

A
t All Peoples Church we try to ‘test’ our site designs before launching them out. As we have considered
the ‘multiple audiences’ of our website, we then use the following process to garner feedback and
support for the new design:



Choose representatives fro
m each audience of the site
.



Send them a test link with a request for their typed, detailed, and honest feedback
.



Gather all feedback
.



Consider all the feedback from each audience and try to find a site that meets the needs of all
viewers.


11.


Content Manage
ment

Do not use 'Flash' or animation. These technologies are extremely time consuming and expensive to
update. As your church grows your site will need frequent updates. They also do not help you with
Search Engine Optimzation.


Use a content management sy
stem (like Wordpress, Joomla, or Clover) to allow for the easy upload of
content and a quick re
-
design if necessary. A content management system allows users to upload new
content easily. A 'CMS' also allows you to keep that content online if you ever want

to re
-
design your
site.


12.


Domain Names

Please consider the following notes below while reserving your domain name:



Search for a domain name using a domain registrar

o

Network Solutions, Register.com, Godaddy, and Bluehost are all good companies for domain
registration and web hosting



Budget about $25/year for this activity.

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{c} 2011

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Commercial Use Permitted.



Make sure to purchase a name that contains search terms.



The shorter and easier to remember your domain name, the better. Dashes and weird spellings can
confuse people.



Host your primary

domain on a “.org” or a “.com” if at all possible. If

you are able to
, reserve both
.



Pray about it and God will give you a creative idea.



Make sure you pay for 'private' domain registration.

Otherwise
,

your personal phone
number and
address will be spamm
ed all over the internet.



Do not use abbreviations.

Simply buying a domain name does not allow one to ‘have a website.’ Hosting on a server (where your
website’s data is stored is also necessary. Consider the following details regarding a hosting package:




Your first hosting package can probably be in the 'economy' range



Budget about $100/year for this activity minimally.



Private registration (which I recommend because it protects your information) costs more.




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20

{c} 2011

by Kendall Laughlin Jr. Personal & Non
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Commercial Use Permitted.

Social Media Strategy for Churches

T
he deve
lopment of social media has been a fascinating cultural consequence of the web. As a society, we
interact with others more and more frequently online in social media forums such as Facebook and Twitter.

Consider
the following statistics as you

reflect up
on the relevance
of social media to your church:



A visitor to your church site from Facebook is more likely to A) view more pages on your site and

B) spend more time on your site
5




The average internet user spends 56 minutes every
day on Facebook
6




If Fac
ebook
were a country, it would t
hird largest in the world
3





Facebook accounts for
about 25& of all page views online
7




All Peoples Church in San Diego (a local church of about 250 peop
le) receives over 400 visits to its
'Facebook Fan Pages' each week

UNDE
RSTANDING SOCIAL MEDIA

The average Facebook user spends over an hour a day on Facebook. With more and more people spending their
time and developing relationships through online networks, your church needs to provide people the means to
connect with you on

these forums.

Also, social media allows for the quick spreading of information across multiple platforms. Because many users
access social media on their mobile phon
es, an organization can quickly

send real
-
time and frequent updates to
church members and
potential visitors.

*Note


Mashable.com is generally considered the Internet’s premier blog about social media. They have
written a ‘guide book’ about Facebook and Twitter that can be
found here.

STEPS TO A
SOCIAL MEDIA CAMPAIGN

The major deterrent for many people or churches in getting involved in social media is the fear of constant
upkeep and updating.


By linking your social media sites together, your church can continually interact with followers via soc
ial media
without the constant updating of various sites.




5

http://www.christianitytoday.com/yc/manageresources/other/thestateofsocialmediapart1.html

6

http://www.churchmark
etingsucks.com/2010/11/facebook
-
ads
-
for
-
your
-
church/

7

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301
-
501465_162
-
20023480
-
501465.html

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21

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by Kendall Laughlin Jr. Personal & Non
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Commercial Use Permitted.

Follow the steps below to begin your campaign:

1.

Set up a website with a Content Management System


2.

Determine your RSS Feed from your content management system

a.

Your RSS Feed is a web address that upda
tes automatically when you update your CMS

b.

If you are using Wordpress, use the following URL to determine your RSS Feed:
Click here


3.

Open up any
of the following social m
edia Profiles

a.

Facebook fan
p
age

b.

Twitter a
ccount

c.

Tumblr b
log

d.

Flickr p
hotostream


4.

Using your email account, make friends or find followers on these social media profiles


5.

Link your RSS feed to your social media profiles in order to provide consistent data and information
8

a.

Note: all of

your profiles must be ‘public’ for this to work

b.

Facebook


Click here

c.

Twitter


Click here

d.

Tumblr


Click here


6.

Make blog posts on your CMS when you want to update your followers and watch Facebook, Twitter,
and Tumblr
syndicate your blog posts.


7.

Upload photography from church events to your flickr account. You can then add a ‘flickr widget’ to your
CMS

home page so that your home page automatically updates with new photos

a.

Flickr to Facebook


Click here

b.

10 Wordpress plugins for Flickr


c
lick here


Using Flickr, it is much easier to provide new and relevant photography on your website. This way,
photos of recent events can be up on your site with very little programming.




Note: an additional option
, if you prefer not to blog, would be to use Twitter exclusively and then
update facebook and tumblr via twitter.
-

Click here

USING FACEBOOK EFFECTIVELY


An organization on Facebook does n
ot “friend” people. Instead, the organization sets up a “page” that allows
others to “like” that page.




8

Hootsuite.com,

a popular
social media tool, can aggregate these feeds for your automatically if desired.

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22

{c} 2011

by Kendall Laughlin Jr. Personal & Non
-
Commercial Use Permitted.

The vision of a Facebook strategy

Many of your church members have friends that don’t go to a church. These church members will interact with
you online

and most likely, their friends currently not attending a church will notice. A Facebook strategy is less
about interacting with your church members and more about free marketing to your members’ “friends.”


Steps to an effective Facebook strategy:

1.

Create

the page

2.

Invite all your “friends” to “like” the page

3.

Promote the page at church as a way to get current information. Facebook accounts for
about
25% of
page views online.
9

4.

Link the page to your church website

5.

Mention the page on your
personal

Facebook pr
ofile

6.

Establish a Facebook “Places” account. This allows users to let others know when they are attending a
service at your church


more information here

7.

.Aggregate your blog RSS Feed to your Facebook page m
anually or with Hootsuite

8.

Monitor your Facebook page quickly for spam wall posts or inappropriate material.


You can also pay Facebook to post ads online and target them towards cities and campuses.

Facebook ads are an effective way to specifically target
friends of friends of your community (probably people
who would know
someone attending your church).

USING TWITTER EFFECTIVELY


Twitter allows organizations to rapidly communicate information and casually interact with their fan base.
Twitter also allows y
our church members to ‘mention’

the church to others.

1.

Create the profile

2.

Create a profile for a staff member

3.

Using your church email list,
find as many local followers as you can

4.

Using your staff twitter account, “mention” your church as much as possible (
ex: @all_peoples)

5.

Aggregate Podcast and RSS feed to the twitter account as described above







9

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301
-
501465_162
-
20023480
-
501465.html

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{c} 2011

by Kendall Laughlin Jr. Personal & Non
-
Commercial Use Permitted.

SEO Strategy for Churches

A Technical Paper for Web Designers and Church Staff Members
, 2010

The following white paper is a step
-
by
-
step guide for churches desiri
ng to increase their find
-
ability on the
internet. Much of the paper is technical in nature.

This paper is

a free guide for churches based on personal experience and guarantees no results.

First, To the Pastor

Due to the technical requirements of Search E
ngine Optimization, your online marketing strategy will most likely
be managed by an outside web consultant or inside administrator. As the leader of your church, you will provide
the ‘big picture’ direction for Search Engine Optimization. Your role in the

process is described below:



Know how people will find your church online

o

Search Engines: Google, Bing, and Blekko allow users to
use a keywords to locate your site.

o

Media Portals: Sites like

iTunes, Flickr, Vimeo, and YouT
ube will host media that your chu
rch
posts.

o

Social Networking: Users of social networks will interact with your church online and also
through ‘fans’ and members of your church

o

Mapping Software: Individuals looking for your church will want to find you using tools like
Mapquest, Google M
aps, Bing Maps, Etc




Determine what ‘search terms’

and ‘keywords’

you want to target

o

This is a process you will begin by pra
ying and listening to the Lord.


o

In beginning an SEO strategy, it is wise to target your strategy to those that your church is
targe
ting

by AREA:



Examples:



Church

in

/ near _________ (zip code)



Churches near ___________ (local campus)



Churches near ___________ (neighborhoods you are reaching)



Church in
city, state



________ worship service / college ministry (local campus)


o

As your stra
tegy develops, you may also want to target those looking for a church that
represents different values:



Examples:



Supernatural church in _______ (city name)



Prayer and fasting church in ____ (city name)

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24

{c} 2011

by Kendall Laughlin Jr. Personal & Non
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Commercial Use Permitted.



Multi
-
ethnic, multi
-
cultural church in ______ (city n
ame)



Antioch Network Church in ___________ (city name)


o

Finally, as your church develops different annual events, these too will serve as important
search terms and keywords for your church website:



Examples:



Christmas service in ______ (city name)



Free Ea
ster Egg Hunt near ______ (neighborhood)





Understand that an SEO strategy may sacrifice some of the ‘simple design’ that websites of larger
churches feature


o

Here’s how search engine optimization works: Search Engines ‘rank’ sites based on their
supposed
relevance to search terms. Most search
engines

rank sites according to the following
criteria:



Age of the site

(search engines reward older domains)



Number of times keywords appear on the sites



Number of other sites linking to this site



Number of sites tha
t this site links to



Amount of ‘relevant information’ on your site including text and images



Amount of ‘fresh information’ on your site recently posted or updated



The URL of the site and whether or not it contains relevant keywords


o

Because Search Engines
rank according to the relevance and importance of information,
especially the amount of links, it is unwise to develop a very simple website for your first web
design.


o

Larger churches have simple, flash
-
based websites because people are
searching for thei
r
church
. If you are reading this article, people are most likely not searching for your church online
yet. Instead, you need to attract web visitors by pursuing an aggressive SEO strategy.


o

Flash
-
based websites do not work well with Search Engines like Go
ogle and Bing. Also, they are
unusable on many phones. Therefore, I recommend that churches avoid using flash animation in
all instances.
10


o

The goal of your website should be to develop an intuitive and simple layout, while still having
plenty of necessary
elements available to make your site attractive to various search engines.




Approve major decisions regarding the branding of your church




10


Clover


a church website company does use flash websites that are SEO findable. Some churches may opt for a company
such as Clover, but

working
with a
n individual designer will give you more flexibility with design and strategy.

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by Kendall Laughlin Jr. Personal & Non
-
Commercial Use Permitted.

o

The church

website is the “new front door”

of the church. Therefore, it is wise as the lead pastor
to approve any majo
r changes to your online strategy including:



The Meta description


this is the little paragraph description that shows up on search
engines. I recommend pastors write this as it will be used as a major descriptor for the
church. They must be short (3 sent
ences) and include all of your important key words.




Example: "
All Peoples Church is a San Diego Church serving SDSU, the College
Area, City Heights, and the entire community of San Diego.





The URL


Spend time in prayer considering what you want the “URL
” of your church
website to be

(the domain)
. This is a major branding decision.




Determine
how you will work with your inside/outside web professional

o

Will you meet regularly to approve changes?

How will you monitor the church’s online brand?




Determine wh
ether or not you will

personally

use social media

o

A Pastoral blog, Twitter account, or Facebook profile is a great way to interact with people, but
it also takes time to maintain. What is the Lord calling you to?




Determine an advertising budget

o

At All Peo
ples Church we have found that an Google Adwords budget of about $100/month is a
very effective way to bring traffic to our site.


o

Including hosting, marketing, and domain registration your website could cost your church over
$2,000 annually.



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26

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by Kendall Laughlin Jr. Personal & Non
-
Commercial Use Permitted.

Steps to An

SEO Strategy : For the Web Administrator


Step

Process

Resources To Use

1

C
HOOSE
T
HE
D
OMAIN
N
AME

-

Choose a .COM or .ORG (.COM is preferable)

-

The shorter the better

-

Don’t use hyphens or numbers

-

Consider target keywords (Church name, city)


-

Use domjax.com t
o see if
certain domains are
available


-

Use Google Adwords
Keyword tool to determine
relevant keyword
-

here

2

D
ES
IGN
T
HE
S
ITE

-

Avoid Flash

and f
rames of any kind.

-

The c
hurch and city name should be in an <H1> tag at the
very top of the page
.

-

Use an easy to update Content Management S
ystem

-

Use a CSS style sheet so that you can quickly redesign the
site in the event of
the inevitable design update
.

-

Make sure your site has plenty of powerful photographs
.

-

Do not use <TABLE> functions. These slow Google and
Bing’s bots down.

-

Consult other popu
lar
church websites


-

Consult
other websites
relevant to
target group


-

Wordpress or

Joomla


-

Install Social Media links


-

Embed photos & videos


-

Set up your site with
Google Analytics

for future
research and tracking


3

M
ETA
T
AGS

-

Keywords



in <HEAD> section of every page should be a
list o
f your target keywords
.

-

Description



in <HEAD> section of site, a short, keyword
-
rich description of your website
.

-

Title


Each page should have a <TITLE> tag including the
Church name, Ci
ty Name, Zip Code of the Church.



-

Google Meta tags guide
-


Click
here


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27

{c} 2011

by Kendall Laughlin Jr. Personal & Non
-
Commercial Use Permitted.

4

S
ITE
C
ONTENT

-

The text on your website MUST be SEO friendly by
becoming keyword rich
.

-

Your CHURCH NAME and CITY NAME should appear at
least
15 times

on the fr
ont page of your site
.

-

<IMG> tags should all include an <alt> description that is
keyword rich and a <title> if possible
.

-

Links


Each link should have a <TITLE> tag include
relevant and keyword rich information
.

-

Links


Your site should have at least
10

o
utgoing links if at
all possible. These could include links to social media,
other sites you maintain, Antioch Network, etc
.



-

Using the Mozilla Firefox or
Chrome
Google Toolbar

you can easily count how
many times

keywords
appear on your site

5

S
YNDICATE
B
LOG

T
O

S
OCIAL
M
EDIA

-

See

previous chapter

“Social Media Strategy for
Churches” for more information
.

-

Once your Social Media profiles are set up, you’ll want to
‘friend’ or ‘follow’ as many LOCAL people as possib
le



-

Consult previous chapter
for more information.

6

E
STABLISH
P
ODCAST

-

Your podcast is a way for visitors to ‘check you out’ before
ever visiting your church

-

Podcasts should be available streaming on your church
websites. Wordpress has many WIDGETS that
will update
your podcast via an RSS Feed



-

The easiest way to make a
podcast is to use a MAC
laptop to record the service
and GARAGE BAND to
publish the Podcast


Information here


-

Wordpress c
an also create
a subdirectory that can be
used to set
-
up a podcast


Information here

7

C
REATE
O
NLINE
M
APS
P
ROFILES

-

Make sure you keep your login for any map profiles you
create, as
if your church ever

moves offices or worship
locations
,

this can be difficult to change
.

-

Maps programs are important because they provide
directions to visitors and an additional profile on the web



-

Bing Maps
Local Listing
Center


-

Google Place
s

-

here


-

Mapquest
-

here


-

Facbook Places
-

here


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28

{c} 2011

by Kendall Laughlin Jr. Personal & Non
-
Commercial Use Permitted.

8

C
REATE
A

S
ITEMAP

AND
ROBOTS

FILE

-

A ‘
Sitemap
’ is a file on your server that a search engine
looks at to know what sites are ‘live’ on your site

-

Most CMS programs will create a
Sitemap

for you
automatically

-

A ROBOTS.TXT file keeps search engines from browsing
different areas of your site. I recommend that you put
your images and videos in a ROBOTS protected folder



-

Wordpress Google
Sitemap

Plugin


Click
here


-

Free
Sitemap

generation


Click here


-

Google information on
Sitemap
s
-

Here


-

Information on a
robots.txt

file

9

C
REATE
W
EBMASTER
A
CCOUNT
S


-

Google

-

This will allow you to track traffic on your site and see
what people are searching to find you

-

Select ‘add a site’ and go thro
ugh the steps. You will need
to log into you FTP in order to authenticate the site and
prove to google that it belongs to you

-

Once you verify you sit
e, you Need to SUBMIT YOUR
SITE
MAP
. This is a c
rucial step.

-

Once your site map is submitted, every time you

add a
page to your CMS or blog, that page is

automatically
added to Google!


-

Bing

-

Has a very similar process to Google. I recommend using
Google first because it is much more intuitive.




-

Google Webmaster
Account
-

here


-

Bing’s webmaster
account
-

Here

10

S
UBMIT
S
OCIAL
M
EDIA
S
ITES FOR
S
EARCHES

-

Sites do not appear automatically on search engines, they
must be submitted
.


-

You will wan
t to submit your social profiles so that they
benefit you in SEO. Also include your podcast XML in this.



-

Google submit a site
-

here


-

Bing submit
-

here

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29

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by Kendall Laughlin Jr. Personal & Non
-
Commercial Use Permitted.

11

N
EW
C
ONTENT
!



T
HE
‘X

F
ACTOR


-

Without the frequent publishing of new content, your church website will
never grow in online rankings.


-

Your web administrator

must commit to creating keyword rich posts on your
CMS system.


-

Ch
urch Events worthy of a post include:

o

New Sermon Series

o

New Seasons (fall, s
pring)

o

Events that require directions, etc
.

o

Testimonies

o

Mission t
rips

o

Ministry updates

o

Pictures of recent events

o

Devotionals


-

The Title and content of the post must be keyword rich
. In San Diego we did
a 21 day devotional blog on Philippians that skyrocketed our church in SEO
rankings due to the keyword rich content.


-

Without the consistent publishing of new content
,

your church will remain
on the 4
th

or 5
th

page of search e
ngine ra
nkings. In order to prove yoursel
f
relevant to Google and other search e
ngines, you must provide new and
relevant content to internet vistiors.


-

The titles of your posts should relate to search terms you are interested in
like, “Christmas Service in CITY N
ame
.




12

L
INK
S
HARING

-

There may be para
-
church ministries or other groups in your city
that provide online directories of churches. Choose these
partnerships wisely, but they are a good way to also get your
church listed online.


-

If you create a profile

with one of these organizations realize that
th e profile may be difficult to update.

As a result, simply list your
church name and website rather than your current service
information.



13

O
NLINE
A
DS

-

Opening up accounts for online advertisements will i
ncrease traffic.
Most of these services are ‘pay per click’ and you can set a ceiling
for the amount you desire to spend each month




-

Google
Adwords



-

Facebook Ads

Page
30

{c} 2011

by Kendall Laughlin Jr. Personal & Non
-
Commercial Use Permitted.

Ap
pendix: Favorite US Church Websites

In my opinion!



Gateway Church



Austin, TX

o

Gatewaychurch.com

o

Strengths: language is relevant to the unchurched, color, navigation




City Church



Seattle, WA

o

Thecity.org

o

Strengths


Modern design, simple yet a lot of content




Generation Church


Seattle, WA

o

Generationchurch.org

o

Strengths


young and trendy design




Park Community Church



Chicago, IL

o

parkcommunitychurch.org

o

Strengths


soothing colors, great design, use of media, excellent SEO strategy




Granger Community Church



Granger, IN

o

http://www.gccwired.com/

o

A
great example of a custom designed CMS




The Snow Ball Church

-

HI

o

http://www.boladenevechurch.com.br/

o

Amazing use of illustration




New Song Church



Irvine, CA

o

http:
//www.newsong.net/

o


Incredible pictures and sleek modern design, integrated social media well




LIfechurch.tv



Edmond, OK

o

http://www.lifechurch.tv/

o

The classic ‘Resource Center’ website



Page
31

{c} 2011

by Kendall Laughlin Jr. Personal & Non
-
Commercial Use Permitted.

Appendix: Working with a
Web Designer

A Guide to help you choose the right web professional for your church

Options for your web designer

Once a church has decided to invest in a web strategy, there will inevitably be a web designer involved, as most
pastors do not program or code websites themselves.
The
average

web designer charges be
tween $35
-
65/ hour
for freelance.

There
are essentially 4 different design team options in working with your website:

Option

Description

Pros

Cons

Cost

The
Volunteer

A volunteer, whom
you pay nothing (or
with a small gift),
works to help you
develop a website.

Gives a church
member a leadershi
p
role, gets you an
initial website up
quickly and with low
cost.

Volunteers, although
initially may be very
available, are not
reliable over time.


Also, you are entrusting
a volunteer with a very
valuable resource: the
front door of your
church.


Although the initial
cost is low,

you will
probably have to hi
r
e

a designer to update
the site when the
volunteer is no
longer

available.

The
S
taff Member

A staff member
designs and updates
the website.

You are designing the
site

in house


and
have total control.
You can make edits
quickly and post new
information quickly.


The staff person’s
design or programming
capabilities may be
limited

Little financial cost,
but the staff person’s
time is a very real
opportunity cost.

The
Initial Designer

You hire a designer to
set up a

CMS


for you
and teach a staff
member or trusted
volunteer how to
update the site.

Yo
ur site has a
professional template,
but is also easy to
update.

Some sites
can even be easily
updated from a
mobile phone.



This is the best
opt
ion, in my opinion,
for most churches.

You are
committed

to
this template until you
want to update the site
again.

Creating or
customizing a
temp
late should cost
no more than $
2
,000.
An average
Wordpress template
customization

should
be in the

$500 range
,
but you will probably
have some extra
needs.


The
Ongoing Vendor

You outsource your
site entirely to either a
paid church CMS
company o
r an
outside designer.


You get a very
professional site with
cutting

edge
technology. You are
not responsibility for
any programming.


This is a very expensive
option.


The initial set
-
up will
be from $1,000 to
3,000 with a monthly
fee
.


Page
32

{c} 2011

by Kendall Laughlin Jr. Personal & Non
-
Commercial Use Permitted.

C
hoosing the right web designer

Once a church has decided to invest in a web strategy, there will inevitably be a web designer involved, as most
pastors do not program or code websites themselves.
The
average

web designer charges be
tween $35
-
65/ hour
for freelance.


Here are some
thoughts
on

choosi
ng the right designer:



A designer that has either worked with churches before or is

familiar with your church
culture
should be
your first choice. Th
is designer will understand the unique requirements of a church website and also
the unique vision
of your community.




Always ask for and ins
pect a portfolio before working with a designer.

Upon viewing the portfolio,
consider what you see. Different designers have different levels of expertise and poise.




Establish a contract, including a total price (or number of hours if you are paying by the hour) and a soft
-
launch date.

This wi
ll keep your project on point financially and time
-
wise.




Determine whether the designer will also help you implement your social media strategy.
I
n
most cases,
a te
c
h
-
s
avvy team member could take this




Inquire upon the designer

s SEO skills. Many designers understand HTML (web programming language)
but are not experienced in SEO.
A tech
-
savvy team member may

need to lead your SEO strategy.




Provide your

designer with excellent pictures and text.




Have a design plan

drawn out


on paper the old
-
fashioned

way for the designer. This will just start your
project.




Determine 3 or 4 websites whose look you enjoy and would like to emulate. This will insu
re that you like
your finished product.




Ask the designer
for a

weekly report of hours, fees, and items designed (with proofs).